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Holy Trinity Church, Powai
- Geetanjali Dhulekar
Uphill from Gandhi Nagar, one sights the board of the Holy Trinity Church set in an arch, and catches a glimpse of a grotto and an expanse of greenery within. This church was built by the Jesuits when they came to the Powai valley in 1557 and founded an agricultural settlement. The locals then mostly East Indians were the first parishioners. This little statistic makes it one of the two oldest churches in Mumbai. The original Church of the Most Holy Trinity today lies submerged under Vihar Lake where the top is sometimes visible when the level of the water goes down. When the Britishers wanted to create the lake, they gave the Jesuits an alternate site, the present one, on the hill.
Sadly even that church lies in ruins. All that you see are two lateral thick stone walls with huge trees growing through them. This church was operational right up to 1737, for 180 years till the Maratha conquest damaged it severely. Following this, a plague hit the area and people fled to Vikhroli and East Kanjur Marg. A spiritual man, George Bawa took care of the property during that phase. The church in appreciation placed many plaques in his memory on the land.
A statue of Mother Mary with Infant Jesus and a cross were found in the lake bed that were restored and the local inhabitants still visit and pray at this spot. In 1846 a chapel was built close to the ruins and is now well known as the shrine of Our Lady of Health because of this statue. Over the last two centuries, the faith people have in it has grown considerably.
The church hosts an Annual Festival on the last Sunday of May. People talk of how 40-50 years ago they've participated in these as children wherein the parents would travel from distances - camping overnight even, on the grounds, praying and singing the praises of God and His Mother. For children, it was like a picnic. All the women would stir huge cauldrons to rustle their traditional meals. There'd be bullock carts and tonga races. Today the races have been replaced with people just arriving in procession, some in their decked up horse drawn carriages - but the festivities continue.
The period of Lent is a time when Christians prepare for Easter by observing fasts, spiritual discipline and penance. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Christ and his suffering and sacrifice, his life and death and finally his resurrection. As part of the Easter season, the death of Jesus by crucifixion is commemorated on Good Friday with a walking pilgrimage, The Way of the Cross. The parishioners start walking at dawn from Dreamz mall via Galleria back to the Church.
According to Scripture, Jesus was raised from the dead 3 days later so there's much rejoicing on Easter Sunday. Jesus paid for all sins - opening the gates to eternal life for all those who believe in him, and practiced His precepts. After the subdued service of Good Friday, there's a special Mass on Easter Sunday that everyone makes it a point to attend. There's a huge Roman Catholic community in Powai that celebrates every festival together -although this particular church is merely 46 years old. Tradition and fellowship have ensured the parish flourishes. They have a grand choir that sets the tone for all celebrations, and enthuses the congregation on festivals such as Easter and Christmas, the birth of Jesus.
The Church manages St Xavier's School, which is open to children of all castes and creeds and accommodates even the slow learners integrating them with the normal students. The congregation does yeoman service amongst the poor and down-trodden, in and around Powai. A mention must also be made about two nuns who were recently felicitated for their work with the Phule Nagar children.